ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Chasing a title as opposed to defending one has given the Denver Broncos a boost of energy.
A year ago the Broncos were defending their Super Bowl 50 win, but the hangover from that championship might have taken away their edge. They say they’ve found it this offseason with a new coaching staff and some motivated veterans.
“You can definitely feel that juice,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said after Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “Everybody has a little pep in their step.
“Maybe because it’s new coaches, you’ve got a clean slate, you’ve got an opportunity to start over. Definitely last year it was a little bit lax on our part coming off that Super Bowl, but I think we’ve got it back up.”
Denver’s run to winning the Super Bowl was keyed by the NFL’s No. 1 defense. Last year it slipped to fourth overall, and despite being one of the elite units it wasn’t able to compensate for the 27th-ranked offense. The Broncos missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
The players want to get back to the top, and it started with this week’s camp.
“I feel our urgency is there,” cornerback Aqib Talib said. “I don’t think our urgency was there last year. We were kind of in recovering mode the whole offseason. Our urgency is there. That’s where it starts.”
Despite the departure of coordinator Wade Phillips, the defense remains mostly intact. Defensive backs coach Joe Woods took over for Phillips, which has allowed the unit to have a similar feel.
“Obviously it’s different with coach Woods coaching, but we emphasize some similar stuff that we emphasized in last year’s defense,” linebacker Von Miller said. “Our defense is a lot more simple. Our defense before was simple, but I think this year with some new pieces and a new coach, we’ll be able to run a whole lot smoother.”
One of the bigger changes on defense was the retirement of linebacker DeMarcus Ware. The Broncos will miss his leadership, but Miller said the unit will stay strong.
“We police ourselves in the locker room,” he said. “We know what a good practice looks like; we know what a bad practice looks like. Nobody has to come tell us. We have great coaches, so they’re going to stay on top of that as well. We have a great veteran core in the locker room and everything is able to run a whole lot smoother when you have those pieces in place.”
The bigger change in philosophy is on offense under coordinator Mike McCoy, who held the same position from 2010-12. He’s back after four years as the Chargers head coach and has already made an impression on the players.
“He’s very player-friendly,” wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. “He’ll talk to you, you can walk up and approach him and be able to ask him any question. He’s down to help. That’s what I like. So far, he’s been doing a great job.”